GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference has canceled sports for the rest of the year, postponing any play until Jan. 1, 2021.
The GLIAC Council of Presidents and Chancellors made the decision Tuesday, citing the risk of coronavirus infection. The goal now is to shift fall sports to spring, though that plan is still being worked out.
Players may still practice under NCAA guidelines.
“Our council of presidents and GLIAC athletic directors weighed this decision from every angle, hoping to find a feasible option for student-athletes to compete this fall, but in the end, the potential risks to student-athletes, coaches, support staff and fans made fall competition impossible,” council chair Richard Pappas of Davenport University said in a Wednesday statement.
“The decision to suspend all sports competition this fall was extremely difficult,” GLIAC Commissioner Kris Dunbar added. “After thoroughly reviewing federal, state, and NCAA SSI (Sport Science Institute) and Board of Governor’s guidelines, it became apparent that conducting contests and championships this fall was insurmountable. My frustration and sadness for the coaches, student-athletes, families and fans is unmitigated. The league will continue to work on protocols for a safe return for our athletic programs, with the health and safety of our student-athletes and staff taking the highest priority.”
The decision was made the same the day the Big Ten and Pac-12 called off their football seasons.
In West Michigan, Davenport University, Ferris State University and Grand Valley State University are GLIAC members.
In a statement, Ferris State Athletics Director Park Weisenburger said his department was “saddened” that sports would not go forward but that he understood there was too much uncertainty to play.
Ferris’ football coach Tony Annese wrote his team an emotional letter, saying, in part, that he loves them. He said he’s heartbroken that they can’t play, but he understands.
“Do we all want to have football? Certainly, we do. Do the young men deserve to play the great game? Yes, they do,” Annese said. “They work hard, so they deserve an opportunity to play in 2020, but it’s easier said than done. So, we have to respect the experts in the field and if they say it’s too dangerous to play, then it’s too dangerous to play.”
Matt Mitchell, GVSU’s football coach, says he understands the reason the conference pulled the plug on the fall season: safety first. But he agrees with what some Big Ten coaches, who say canceling games doesn’t guarantee safety.
“By having the carrot of competition, by having the infrastructure of your team, I think you can better educate those guys on those risks and try to prevent some of those social behaviors. That’s probably my biggest concern now is,” Mitchell said. “We have to stay very, very diligent with our players. COVID-19 is not going away. So, what are the social decisions they are making now that they don’t have football in their lives. Make sure they understand that has an impact with this virus.
GVSU AD Keri Becker said her focus was now on “a safe return to practicing” and helping student-athletes succeed.